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Point 1: Raisins from Etre


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To fish or not to fish, that is the question.

 

If Socrates was right that the unexamined life is not worth living, then perhaps the same can also be said for the unexamined past-time. Our "Raison d'etre" guides personal choices and keeps thinking people relevant and well adjusted. A fishing organization fishes. It does so proudly. It will act to ensure continued and improved opportunities to do so and it does so with the knowledge that the impetus to fish comes from a heritage deeply embeded in the human experience.

 

To some, this philosophy may seem like pointless navel gazing. Those who were raised with fishing view it as something as natural as wearing a hat or watching a parade. You just do it. Why would you need to affirm it?

 

Most people reading a fishing blog have probably already made the decision to fish or support fishing. Those who are paying attention, however, also realize that large demographics in most developed nations disdain recreational fishing as dirty or immoral. Some view it with indifference. Others profit from activies that degrade it. The decision to fish and to affirm the value of fishing exacts a cost both on the individual and society and is by no means trivial.

 

A fishing organization must be able to explain the decision to fish to society at large. The number of people who fish has been declining steadily in recent decades. The progeny of urbanization have become more and more disconnected from the natural world and most have lost the knowledge and disposition that allows them to be successful anglers. Once they don't participate, they don't care. The growing number of people who don't value fishing have an ever increasing ability to degrade or eliminate fishing opportunities for others. If anglers cannot articulate, defend and promulgate their view of fishing to non-anglers, their critics almost certainly will.

 

So yes, a fishing organization should be able to affirm the value of fishing to all comers.

 

What then is the value of recreational fishing? The answer will vary for every individual. Herein I gladly offer my own reasons for participating in this most anachronistic sport.

 

1. I enjoy it. Whatever else is said about why someone participates in recreational fishing has to begin here. To some degree it really is this simple. A universe full of happy people is better than a universe full of unhappy people. If something within reasonable moral constraints makes you happy...DO IT!!

 

2. Fishing teaches me about the natural world. I have spent quite a few years working in and studying aquatic ecology. I've read the texts. I've read the journals. I've sat in the lectures and the seminars and conversed with the leaders in the field. In all of those contexts my experiences as an angler have served as an able guide for my perceptions about aquatic ecosystems, communities and fish. The feeding ecology, habitat requirements and behavioral patterns of fish are the intellectual grist of anglers. Their means to address these questions aren't necessarily scientific but they are supported by vast amounts of observational time and data. Wise biologists selectively tap into this knowledge. Early ecologists such as Stephen Forbes drew heavily on commerical and recreational fishers to gain his early insights into large river ecology. Many, many other biologists have done so and continue to do so as a matter of course. Beyond this, I tend to approach fishing as a game...a scientific game, really. Each cast tests a hypothesis. Each trip is a sampling of the environment. Every step, paddle, knot, retrieve, purchase and itinerary revolves around the game of predation.

 

3. Fishing connects me emotionally to ecosystems. The fishing "game" has been played for tens of thousands of years. That's long enough for evolution to have affected the human genome and our response to environmental cues. Certainly there should have been times that selective pressures chose effective fishers over ineffective fishers. Given the recent body of neurological research that connects our endorphin levels to human behavior and evolution, it makes perfect sense to reward our bodies with a flush of pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters when we do something likely to promotes the survival of the organism. To be sure, I don't know if the emotional response to fishing is a cultural artifact or if there is something deeper and genetic at work. I do know I have seen people from a vast array of cultures exhibit similar and powerful emotional responses when they catch fish. Their heart-rates increase. They smile. They laugh. They become flushed or excited. I do it too. If that response was knit into the genes of our ancestors, it could easily have carried down to the present day.

 

As time wears on and our "fitness" has become more and more disconnected from our ability to hunt and fish. Any genetic basis for an emotional response to fishing may gradually unravel and fade. We would do well to ask ourselves if that is a good thing for our long-term survival as a species. Humans emerged from the ecosystems that sustain fish populations. Do we really think we can survive for the long-term without them? Is this really a piece of our history that we want to leave behind?

 

 

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About all many of them do outdoors is dribble a basketball on a patch of concrete.

 

That's still better than those that sit inside behind a computer or text on a phone all day.

 

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